Steve Perry’s plan – Turn Hartford’s Capital Prep into a charter, open charters in Bridgeport and New York

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This is Part 1 of a series about Steve Perry and his ongoing effort to get public officials to help him build a financially lucrative charter school management company with taxpayer funds.

When the Hartford Board of Education rejected Steve Perry’s plan to transfer Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School and a nearby neighborhood elementary school over to his private charter school company last year, Perry took to Twitter saying;

 Dr. Steve Perry‏@DrStevePerry
“The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.”

If anyone else had Tweeted a similar threat they would have certainly been detained and questioned by the police.  But while Perry’s Tweet was covered by the Washington Post, Connecticut’s state and local officials simply looked the other way.

After all, Steve Perry is the one who describes himself as “America’s most trusted educator.”

But now Perry is maneuvering for a new deal that will prove far more lucrative.

For the record, Steve Perry is a full-time employee of the Hartford Board of Education and serves as the principal of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School, a public school located on Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut.

In 2012 Perry created a Connecticut company called Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc.

For state registration purposes, Perry’s company is located at his residence in Middletown, Connecticut.  However, when it comes to filing his corporation’s federal paperwork and tax forms, Perry has been using the address of the public school in which he works.

Almost three months ago Steve Perry’s PR operation issued a press release announcing, “Dr. Steve Perry, and the founders of what US News & World Reports has called one of America’s top high schools, are coming to Harlem.”

While Perry’s media team made it appear that Capital Prep Harlem Charter School was already a “done deal,” in reality Perry’s plan is one of 15 new charter school proposals that will be considered by the New York Board of Regents at its November 2014 meeting.

Steve Perry’s Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School application reveals a lot about Perry’s empire building plans.

And they start with the City of Hartford handing their Capital Prep public school over to Perry’s charter school management company.

According to the New York State charter school application, Perry’s Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. is “designed to be a fiscally fit ‘boutique’ charter management organization (“CMO”).”

Perry goes on to explain,

“We are focused on distinguishing ourselves as a mid-sized network of schools…Geographic clustering will allow us to stay small yet generate the revenue necessary to effectively maintain a CMO. Hartford, Bridgeport and Harlem are the three cities in which we have decided to manage schools. It is our hope that we will manage two schools in Harlem. The first is to be Capital Prep Harlem, 6-12. The second would be a kindergarten to 5th grade school in or near the first…Managing four schools in three cities that are within a two-hour drive of each other allows us to support the schools without having to hire completely new staff for each school.”

Perry adds,

“Our anticipated enrollment across all four CPS network schools is approximately 2,500 students between 2015 and 2020. Capital Prep Hartford has 700 students. The Capital Preparatory Harbor School in Bridgeport Connecticut will have 765 students at full enrollment. Capital Prep Harlem will have 600 students in the next five years, and we hope to open a companion kindergarten to fifth grade school in Harlem that will serve another 600 students.”

As for the scope of management fees that he intends to collect, Perry’s New York charter school application boasts,

“Surpluses are projected in each year beginning in 2015.   The annual ending cash balance per year for CPS will be just over $500,000 in management fees collected.  Conservative five- year estimates have our year end cash balance at $2 million by year five between Hartford, Bridgeport and our Harlem 6 to 12 school.”

Besides assuming his company will be able to collect management fees from Hartford’s Board of Education, Perry is also counting on Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy to come through for him.

In a surprise move earlier this year, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and the Connecticut State Board of Education rammed through a plan that would allow Steve Perry to open a new charter school in Bridgeport in the fall of 2015.

Although no state funding has been allocated for the Capital Harbor Charter School in Bridgeport and the state of Connecticut is facing a $1.4 billion budget deficit in next year’s state budget, Perry’s New York application makes it clear that he is expecting Malloy to cough up millions of dollars so he can open his Bridgeport operation and collect his management fees.

Among the many interesting things about the document that Perry has submitted to the New York Board of Regents is the fact that he intends to use the same core “Management Team” for Hartford, Bridgeport and New York.

Since most of the members of Perry’s “Management Team” are presently public employees, his plan raises extremely serious ethical and legal issues.

State and local laws prohibit public employees from engaging in private work that conflicts with their public duties and under no circumstances may public employee use concepts, materials or information developed with public resources to make money during or after their employment with the government.

But despite those legal issues, Perry writes,

“CPS enlisted its founders, current teachers at Capital Prep in Hartford, and strategic consultants to codify the mission, vision and key design elements of the Capital Prep model and operationalize the educational philosophy of the school in order to facilitate replication and training. In addition, this extensive team collaborated to refine the school design in light of the needs of the Harlem community and to develop this proposal. Through regular in person and telephonic meetings, as well as file sharing and other virtual collaboration tools, Dr. Perry…coordinated the production of the proposal with the team of Capital Prep teachers and consultants. Each member of the proposal preparation team has taken on different responsibilities based on their given expertise. The principle writers of this application are Dr. Perry, Ms. Rachel Goldstein, a consultant to CPS and faculty members from Capital Prep.”

Equally troubling is his statement that,

“CPS will launch operations with a core management team representing a mix of deep education experience, business expertise, and political savvy. This ‘hybrid’ team will be crucial to CPS’ success as a high-growth organization in a rapidly changing industry.”

In addition to himself, Perry’s “Management Team” includes Capital Prep’s present assistant principal, Richard Beganski, who is slated to serve as the charter school management company’s chief academic officer.

According to the application, other “Management Team” members include, Kelly Horan, a Capital Prep science teacher; Scott Kapralos, a Capital Prep math teacher; Kitsia Ferguson, a Capital Prep English teacher who presently serves as the Head of Capital Prep’s Lower School; Monique Ethier, another Capital Prep math teacher; Lauren Davern, a Capital Prep history teacher and Lisa Loomis, another Capital Prep English teacher.

Beyond the obvious management and financial issues, Perry’s New York proposal highlights a variety of other areas of concern that will be covered in upcoming posts.

Check back soon for the next post in this series.

The Charter School Hoax

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They call themselves “public schools” when they want to collect nearly $100 million in Connecticut taxpayer funds each year, but refuse to come clean about how they spend that money pointing out that they are “private companies.”

Furthermore, here in Connecticut, they predominately refuse to educate Latinos, bi-lingual students and students who have special education needs.

And when they do happen to get students they don’t want through their so-called “open lottery” system they have a sophisticated operation for “counselling” or pushing out students who have behavior issues or otherwise don’t meet their limited “criteria” for the type of student they want in their school.

In fact, according to the most recent data available on the State Department of Education website, Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, manages to “lose” about 50% of its high school students over the course of four years.

In her latest, “MUST READ” commentary piece, public school advocate Wendy Lecker writes in the Stamford Advocate that it’s time to confront the truth about the charter movement.

Wendy Lecker writes;

Almost daily, headlines are filled with stories of charter school fraud or mismanagement. Recent revelations about possible illegal practices in charter schools in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have led even charter supporters to try to distance themselves from the “crony capitalism” fueling this sector.

It is cold comfort that Connecticut officials are not alone in allowing unscrupulous charter operators to bilk taxpayers. It is time to reassess the entire charter movement in Connecticut.

Recall the original promises made by charter proponents: that they would benefit all public schools — showing public schools the way by using “innovative” methods to deliver a better education to struggling students in an efficient, less expensive manner.

None of those promises have been kept. Charters cannot point to any “innovations” that lead to better achievement. Smaller classes and wraparound services are not innovations — public schools have been begging for these resources for years. Charter practices such as failing to serve our neediest children, e.g., English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and “counseling out” children who cannot adhere to overly strict disciplinary policies, are not “innovations” — and should be prohibited.

Charters often spend more than public schools. Charters in Bridgeport and Stamford spend more per pupil than their host districts. And while it appears that charters in New Haven and Hartford spend comparable amounts, they serve a less needy, and less expensive, population. Moreover, Connecticut charters need not pay for special education services, transportation, or, if they serve fewer than 20 ELL students, ELL services.

While Connecticut owes billions of dollars to our neediest districts, officials provide higher per-pupil allocations to charters. For example charter schools receive $11,500 per pupil from the state, but Bridgeport’s ECS allocation is only $8,662 per pupil. Bridgeport is owed an additional $5,446 according to the CCJEF plaintiffs, not including the cost of teacher evaluations, the Common Core, and other unfunded mandates imposed over the years.

Connecticut increased charter funding over the past three years by $2,100 per pupil, while our poorest school districts received an average increase of only $642 per pupil.

As former New York charter authorizer Pedro Noguera lamented recently, charter schools are a “black box”; fighting transparency in enrollment, educational, managerial and financial practices. It is time for taxpayers force the black box open. Charters receive billions of public dollars. We must ensure that these funds are spent to improve education for all children.

Connecticut officials do not help matters with their almost nonexistent oversight of charter schools. Our State Board of Education’s shocking blindness in the Jumoke scandal is only one example. In their rush to approve any new charter, the board fails to verify charter claims, ignores community opposition and disregards its own rules against segregation in and over-concentration of charter schools. While punishing poor school districts, SBE routinely reauthorizes charters with poor records, excusing their failure to meet academic targets. Connecticut’s state education officials clearly need a scripted curriculum.

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s “Public Accountability for Charter Schools,” is a good starting point. The report outlines areas that demand equity, accountability and transparency: such as enrollment, governance, contracts, and management.

Connecticut must require, as a condition of continued authorization, that charters serve the same demographics as their host districts, through clearly delineated controlled choice policies.

Charter schools must maintain transparent and publicly available annual records and policies regarding enrollment, discipline and attrition. Charters must ensure that they do not employ subtle barriers to enrollment, such as strict disciplinary policies or requirements for parent participation as a condition of attendance. No such barriers exist in public schools.

Charters must prove that they meet the specific needs of the host community in a way the public schools do not. Charters must not be imposed over community opposition. State officials must assess the negative impact of charters on a district, including segregation and funding effects.

Charters must post all contracts and fully disclose revenues and expenditures. Charter officials, board members and employees must undergo background checks and disclose any relationships with contractors, state officials and others dealing with their school. Parents in charter schools must be allowed to elect charter board members.

Charters must show evidence annually that their unique educational methods improve achievement.

These are only some of the reforms that must be enacted — and enforced — for all charters, to ensure that these privately run schools are not shortchanging taxpayers, parents or children. In the meantime, Connecticut needs a moratorium on any new charter schools until this sector gets its house in order.

You can read the full commentary piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Reassess-the-charter-movement-5830482.php

ConnCAN yelps response to Sarah Darer Littman’s Commentary piece

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Provides stunning argument as to why Malloy does not deserve four more years! Over this past weekend, public education advocate and CT NewsJunkie columnist Sarah Darer Littman published a scathing commentary piece on the Malloy administration, the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain and the tens of millions of taxpayer funds being wasted on charter schools in Connecticut. You can read Sarah Darer Littman’s CTNewsJunkie column here – Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse and the Wait, What? re-post and assessment of the piece here - Another MUST READ column on Jumoke/FUSE by Sarah Darer Littman. But as incredible as Sarah Darer Littman’s original piece is, the response from the CEO of ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, is even more telling. Wait, What? readers will recall that ConnCAN led the $6 million, record breaking, lobbying effort on behalf of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform bill that undermined local control and attempted to do away with tenure for all public school teachers, while repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts. ConnCAN also played a pivotal role in the failed attempt to do away with an elected board of education in Bridgeport, their campaign becoming the most expensive charter revision effort in history. And more recently, ConnCAN’s Board of Directors, and their immediate family members, have funneled more than $100,000 into Malloy’s re-election campaign operation — despite the fact that Malloy has taken $6.2 million in public funds to pay for his re-election effort. Normally, when presenting an attack piece by the corporate education reform industry, some critique is required, but not in this case. In this case, the response from Jennifer Alexander, ConnCAN’s CEO, is so absurd that it stands on its own without any introduction or review… You can read ConnCAN’s full response here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_lets_develop_solutions_to_connecticuts_toughest_problems/ Alexander writes,

Regarding Sarah Darer Littman’s Sept. 19, 2014, op-ed, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” the egregious twisting of facts and history buries the important message at the core of Littman’s argument. Sadly, the piece is also a distraction from the real issue at hand, which is improving schools for all children in our state. […] I encourage her to join a real dialogue about how best to achieve these goals. It’s time to move away from tired personal attacks and unfounded conspiracy theories, roll up our sleeves and get to the real work of improving public education. Our kids are counting on it. It is, after all, our responsibility to ensure all kids have the opportunity to achieve their goals. Together, with hard work, dedication, and a bit of creativity, we can ensure Connecticut remains a place where people want to live, work, and invest in their future.

This from the individual and organization that recently sang the praises of Jumoke/FUSE and the man formerly known as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe.  Not to mention their unending efforts to divert taxpayer funds to privately run schools that consistently discriminate against those who don’t speak English and those who need special education services. The message from ConnCAN is loud and clear…..their message is – If you are satisfied with Malloy’s corporate education reform policies, then go ahead and vote for him. If, on the other hand, you are tired of charter schools wasting millions of dollars of our scarce public funds, then Malloy is definitely not the one you want to vote for. Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Another MUST READ column on Jumoke/FUSE by Sarah Darer Littman

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Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens.  She is also one of the most important voices on behalf of public education in Connecticut.

This week Sarah Darer Littman’s commentary piece on  CTNewsJunkie is a key addition to the discussion about the impact the corporate education reform industry is having in Connecticut and how key players in the Malloy administration, the City of Hartford and various pro-education reform entities are undermining Connecticut’s public education system.

In a piece entitled, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” Sarah Darer Littman writes,

“…I read the Hartford Courant report on the discovery that computers and equipment are missing from the Jumoke Academy at Milner…

[…]

Last year, Hartford received a “gift” in the form of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hartford is a city where the Board of Education is under mayoral control — a situation the corporate education reformers in this state (and many forces from outside the state) tried extremely hard and spent a lot of money to try to replicate, unsuccessfully, in Bridgeport in 2012

This means that Mayor Pedro Segarra appoints five members of the Hartford Board of Education, and four are elected by the people of Hartford. However, according to its bylaws , the Board is meant to act as a whole.

But that’s not what happened in the case of the $5 million grant announced back in December 2012.

On June 29, 2012, staff members of the Gates Foundation came to Hartford for a meeting. According to a memo former Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto sent to the Board on October 12, 2012  — which was the first time the wider board knew of the meeting — “Participants included Board of Education Chair Matthew Poland, Mayor Segarra, Hartford Public Schools, Achievement First and Jumoke Academy senior staff members, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, ConnCAN, and other corporate, community and philanthropic partners.”

[…]

What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.

I had to file a Freedom of Information request in order to get a copy of the paperwork on the Gates grant and what I received was only the partial information, because as Connecticut taxpayers will have learned from the Jumoke/FUSE fiasco, while charter schools consistently argue they are “public” when it comes to accepting money from the state, they are quick to claim that they are private institutions  when it comes to transparency and accountability.

But what is clear from the grant paperwork is that Hartford Public Schools committed to giving more schools to Achievement First and Jumoke Academy/Fuse, a commitment made by just some members of the Board of Education in applying for the grant, which appears to be a clear abrogation of the bylaws. Further, as a result of the commitment made by those board members, financial costs would accrue to Hartford Public Schools that were not covered by the grant — for example, the technology to administer the NWEA map tests, something I wrote about back in December 2012, just after the grant was announced.

One of the Gates Foundation grant’s four initiatives was to “Build the district’s capacity to retain quality school leaders through the transformation of low-performing schools, replicating Jumoke Academy’s successful model of a holistic education approach.”

And the stunning, disturbing and incredible story gets worse…. Much, much worse…

The entire “MUST READ” article can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_dont_let_foundation_money_be_a_trojan_horse/

Sarah DarerLittman ends her piece with the observation,

That’s why we need transparency and accountability in our state, not backroom deals structured to avoid the public eye, but which still impact the public purse.

Editor’s Note:

While Sarah is absolutely right about the need for greater transparency and accountability, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that various players within the Malloy administration and the City of Hartford violated the spirit and the letter of Connecticut law.  While great transparency and accountability is vitally important, when it comes to the Jumoke/FUSE issue, indictments and convictions are also in order.

But please take the time to read the commentary piece – Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse.

Questions that teachers (parents, public school advocates and all voters) should be asking…

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Over the next week, the leadership of the Connecticut Education Association will be deciding whether to follow the lead of the American Federation of Teachers and endorse Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts or whether they will endorse another candidate or whether they should make no endorsement in this year’s gubernatorial election.

Here are some of the issues that Connecticut’s public school teachers should be mulling over;

Issue #1:  As has been noted repeatedly, no other Democratic governor in the nation has proposed doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest and lowest performing public schools.   At a candidate debate earlier this month, Malloy tried to clarify his infamous observation that teachers need only show for four years to get tenure by saying,

I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure… I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Wait, What? … Malloy’s comment wasn’t about teachers, “It was about tenure?

If Malloy thought he deserved the support of Connecticut’s teachers, why hasn’t he publicly renounced his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining proposal?

 

Issue #2:  Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.  On the other hand, there are multiple teacher evaluation models that do not tie teacher evaluations to unfair, inappropriate and misleading standardized test results.

If Malloy wanted to show he understands the challenges facing teachers and public education why hasn’t he said that, if re-elected, he will decouple the mandated teacher evaluation system from unfair standardized testing?

 

Issue #3:  When running for governor in 2006 and 2010, Malloy admitted that Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate.  As Mayor of Stamford, Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the critically important CCJEF v. Rell court case, but as governor he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.

If Malloy believes he deserves the votes of teachers (and parents and taxpayers), why won’t he simply say that if he gets a second term in office he will settle the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit and use the CCFEF Coalition’s expertise to fix Connecticut’s broken school funding system?

 

Issue #4:   As Governor, Malloy has increased state funding for privately-run charter schools by 73.6% while providing Connecticut’s public schools with only a 7.9% increase in support.  Virtually all of the new funding was allocated to the state’s 30 so-called Alliance Districts (with major strings attached).  The result has been a loss of local control for Connecticut’s poorest towns and no meaningful support for middle-class towns that have become even more reliant on regressive local property taxes.

If Malloy wants teachers, parents and public school advocates to vote for him, why hasn’t he announced that he will institute a moratorium on additional charter schools and devote scarce public resources to where they belong…Connecticut’s real public schools?

 

Issue #5:  COMMON CORE AND THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME

The Common Core and its associated massive Common Core Testing Scheme have become particularly controversial.  Tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on the massive standardized testing program.  In addition, the Malloy administration has repeatedly lied and mislead parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the new tests.

If Malloy wants a second term, why hasn’t he ordered his State Department of Education to be honest with parents (and teachers) and tell parents that they DO HAVE A RIGHT TO OPT THEIR CHILDREN OUT OF THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME and why does he continue to support the implementation of the Common Core and its massive Common Core Testing program?

These and many other important education issues will face the individual who is elected in November.

Before endorsing or supporting or voting for any candidate, Connecticut’s public school teachers (and every other Connecticut voter) should ask why Malloy has failed to adequately address these important issues.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

You’re right…You just can’t make this sh*t up

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[First, on a personal note.  The Secretary of the State’s office continues to count the Pelto/Murphy petitions as they are sent in by local town clerks.  While the process won’t be concluded until the middle of next week, it appears increasingly likely that we will fall short of the 7,500 “valid” signatures to get on the ballot.  Although we’ve identified a significant number of signatures that were inappropriately or illegally rejected, the traceable problems do not appear, at this time, to be enough to put us over the top – even if we were able to go to court and ask a judge to overrule the actions taken by certain local officials.   When we know the final status of the petition count we will, of course, inform readers immediately.  Regardless, we want to thank all of you who have been so supportive of this quest —- more to come].

 

Meanwhile, pro-education advocates and columnists Wendy Lecker and Sarah Darer Littman have produced two more “MUST READ” pieces.

Wendy Lecker’s piece can be found in the Stamford Advocate and the other Hearst Media outlets, while Sara Darer Littman’s column can be found in at the CT Newsjunkie.

The two pieces should be mandatory reading for all candidates seeking office in Connecticut, as well as the media and the various investigators that are looking into the inappropriate, and potentially criminal, efforts to undermine our public education system and replace it with the corporate education reform and charter school industry’s agenda of privatization and diverting public funds to private enterprise.

Wendy Lecker’s latest column is “Connections in charter world a curious weave,” while Sarah Darer Littman’s latest is entitled “It’s Past Time for Transparency at the State.”

Wendy Lecker writes,

The most disturbing revelation of the FUSE/Jumoke charter school scandal is that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education have consistently neglected to provide any oversight of charter schools. FUSE/Jumoke’s CEO Michael Sharpe’s criminal history and false academic credentials were easily discoverable, yet no one bothered to check. Even worse, Pryor turned a blind eye to Sharpe’s persistent failure in running Hartford’s Milner elementary school- despite the heightened scrutiny Pyror was required to provide of schools in his Commissioner’s Network.

While Milner was floundering, Pryor and the State Board handed Sharpe a new charter school in New Haven, Booker T. Washington Academy (“BTWA”). In April, the Board unanimously approved Sharpe to head BTWA. BTWA’s partnership with FUSE/Jumoke was a major factor in the unanimous vote. When Sharpe was later disgraced, BTWA lost not only its director, but also the basis upon which the SBE approved its application.

Given Pryor’s and the Board’s gross negligence in allowing the first application to sail through without scrutiny, it was incumbent upon them to exert real oversight when the BTWA founder, Reverend Eldren Morrison, decided he still wanted to open a charter school. Since the original application was invalidated, Pryor and the Board should have required that BTWA repeat the same legally required process all charter school applicants must undergo.

Instead, Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education rushed through a “modified” application ignoring both the charter law and SDE’s own procedure, which mandated, among other things, a local public hearing. The cut-and-pasted new application was presented directly to the State Board on August 4.

Astoundingly, the State Board once again abdicated its responsibility and approved this modified application without any scrutiny.

The most outrageous illustration of the Board’s negligence was its treatment of the school’s new director, John Taylor. Taylor, who had worked at the Northeast Charter Schools Network, co-founded by Michael Sharpe, touted his success founding and running a charter high school in Albany, called Green Tech.

One board member questioned his record there, based on an article in Albany’s Times-Union. The newspaper reported that when Taylor ran the school, performance was abysmal- with a four-year graduation rate of only 36 percent and only 29 percent of students passing the English Language Arts Regents exam.

When confronted with this data, Mr. Taylor flatly denied this report, claiming he had wanted a retraction from the newspaper.

A quick check of the New York State Education Department website proves that the Times-Union`s data were accurate. Moreover, my source confirmed that Mr. Taylor never requested a retraction.

Green Tech’s performance was so poor that the SUNY Charter Institute refused to fully reauthorize it. SUNY noted that the school did not “com[e] close to meeting its academic Accountability Plan goals.” Although Mr. Taylor contended that 100 percent of graduates went to college, SUNY reported that only 68 percent went. And not one student passed an AP exam.

These facts cast doubt on Mr. Taylor’s veracity and his ability to deliver on his promises for BTWA. Yet the Board chose to ignore the data and accept Mr. Taylor’s erroneous claims.

The new application is rife with dubious connections. Derrick Diggs of Diggs Construction Company submitted a letter of recommendation for the initial BTWA. Now, Diggs Construction will be handling the renovations for the new BTWA’s temporary and permanent buildings; which cost several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars. Jeff Klaus wrote a letter of recommendation for the initial application. Klaus’ wife is Dacia Toll, CEO of Achievement First Charter chain. Achievement First now has a contract with BTWA to provide professional development; and Achievement First is subletting its vacant building to BTWA as its temporary home. BTWA will return to AF a building renovated on the public dime. Given the self-dealing that permeated FUSE/Jumoke, it is shocking that the Board did not probe these questionable relationships.

Not even religious entanglement bothered the board. After supporters testified about the need for a school that “would promote God’s principles,” SBE Chair Allan Taylor admonished BTWA that the school is a public school- not an adjunct of the church. Yet Reverend Morrison’s church’s home page prominently features a link to Booker T. Washington Academy.

When it comes to rubber-stamping charter schools, even a major scandal cannot shake the State Board from its status quo. One has to wonder what it will take to get the State Board of Education to fulfill its duty to protect Connecticut’s children and taxpayers.

[Thanks to Mary Gallucci for her invaluable help researching this piece]

Wendy Lecker’s complete piece can be found here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Connections-in-charter-world-a-curious-weave-5706568.php

Sarah Darer Littman also examines the activities of Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his band of education reform and charter school aficionados who have been given control of Connecticut’s public education system.

Littman writes,

As soon as the Hartford Courant reported  that a state grand jury had issued a subpoena for “all emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor since January 2012,” it was obvious the controversial head of the state Department of Education was on borrowed time. Frankly, I’m surprised he survived this long.

From the start, Pryor presided over a culture of cronyism and opacity, rather than the transparency Gov. “Dannel” P. Malloy promised.

Take his funneling of $255,000 in no-bid contracts through the State Education Resource Center, for example.

Back in 2012, Tom Swan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, filed a whistleblower complaint  regarding these contracts after learning about them through emails he’d obtained through an FOIA request.

Gov. Malloy’s legal counsel at the time, Andrew McDonald, who has since been elevated to the bench as an associate justice of the State Supreme Court, called Swan’s complaint “reckless” and “devoid of any evidence.”

Except that it wasn’t.

According to the interim report released by the state auditors : “. . . contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services. Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the State Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.”

Pryor’s Education Department has been strong on accountability for teachers, but did it hold itself to those same standards? Not so much.

While the pro-corporate education reform Hartford Courant editorial page waxed lyrical about Pryor’s accomplishments , let’s not forget that these are the same folks who were singing Michael Sharpe’s praises and wanting to give him more taxpayer money only hours before the FUSE/Jumoke scandal blew up.

[…]

Pryor’s reign at the state Department of Education has certainly been great for consultants. It’s hard for the average Nutmegger to know exactly how great, because of his administration’s opacity…

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece can be found here:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_its_past_time_for_transparency_at_the_state_department_of_education/

Finally, if you get a chance, print off these two commentary pieces and when the candidates or political parties come to your door or call you on the phone during the next nine weeks, tell them that  you’d be happy to hear their “message” … once you are done reading them Wendy and Sarah’s two columns.

You can trust us; we’re from the charter schools (Guest Post by Wendy Lecker)

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This truth about the charter school industry grows every day.  Today’s contribution can be found in an investigative story in the New York Times entitled, A Star-Powered School Sputters.  The article explores those associated with the charter school created by Dion Sanders, the pro-football, pro-baseball player turned charter school owner.

Here in Connecticut, we’ve become used to daily coverage of the failures associated with the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and the exploits of charter school champions such as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, “Dr.” Terrence Carter, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Steven Pryor, Capital Prep principal Steve Perry, corporate education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas  and the others who are pushing the charter school gravy train.

In today’s Guest Post, public school advocate and Hearst Media Group columnist Wendy Lecker responds to a recent pro-charter school commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post.

Wendy Lecker writes,

In an oped in the Connecticut Post on August 7, a board member of the Side by Side charter school in Norwalk, Anne Magee Dichele, complained that in the wake of the Jumoke scandal, and the revelations that state authorities exert little oversight over Connecticut charter schools, Connecticut charter schools are now forced to defend themselves to the public.  She pleaded that the public not judge all charters by the actions of those who break the law.

As a public school parent in an urban district, I see my district and districts like mine unfairly maligned on a regular basis, by state and national officials, by  the media and, of course by the charter school industry.  Public education has become everyone’s favorite punching bag and the excuse to do nothing about the glaring inequality in American society. So I feel little sympathy for a charter school operator who must defend her school.

However, I will give some unsolicited advice to this board member. If you do not want to be treated like other charter schools, do not engage in the same semantic sleights of hand your fellow charter operators love to use.

In her oped, Ms. Dichele proudly proclaims that her school uses an “open lottery” so all children “have an equal chance at coming to” her school.  Clearly, she is trying to create the impression that her school satisfied its duty to integrate. Perhaps Ms. Dichele is unfamiliar with the history of school segregation in our country and with the decades of evidence since the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.   So I will spell it out for her.  Open lotteries result in segregation.  Pure and simple.  In fact, open choice was used as a way of keeping southern schools segregated in the wake of the Brown decision.  And over fifty years of evidence since then proves that unfettered choice segregates schools.  The only way to achieve diversity in a choice system is to carefully design a controlled choice policy that consciously seeks diversity. In my district, Stamford, we abandoned an open lottery for our magnet schools years ago, as we found it that it increased segregation.  Stamford has a mandatory integration policy. When our schools fall out of balance, we redistrict.   Enrollment in our magnet schools is done through a lottery that consciously controls for demographics.   Our schools are integrated because we make the conscious effort to integrate, rather than blindly declaring that “all can attend.”

Ms. Dichele’s Side by Side charter school is a perfect example of how an open lottery works against diversity.  When you compare the demographics of Side by Side charter school to its host district, Norwalk, Side by Side has ten percent less poverty, half the percentage of English Language Learners and half the percentage of students with disabilities that Norwalk’s schools have.  Moreover, while state data show that Side by Side has zero percent teachers of color, Norwalk’s school district has 15.9%.

Side by Side charter has significantly fewer needy children than its host district—which brings me to Ms. Dichele’s other claim: that her school spends less than public schools.  Charter schools do not have to pay for transportation or special education services.  Public school districts have to pay for those services provided to the charter schools.  So, Norwalk is paying for the few special education students served at Side by Side, as well as their transportation- and Norwalk reports this payment as expenditure, even though Norwalk cannot count those children as Norwalk district students.  Under state law, if a charter school has fewer than 20 students who are English Language Learners, it does not need to provide ELL services for its students.  According to state data, Side by Side has 13 ELL students. If Side by Side spends less, one would have to say- of course. It is not required to provide the same services as its host district.

Moreover, the facts show that in Connecticut, charters routinely outspend or at least spend the same as their host districts. Bridgeport charters outspend Bridgeport public schools, and in New Haven and Hartford, they spend comparable amounts.

The hard numbers also show that the public schools districts in which these charters exist have been shortchanged by the state year after year.    Norwalk, for example is owed at least $21.34 million annually– that’s almost $2,000 per pupil annually- by the state. And this conservative amount does not factor in any of the unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed on districts, like the Common Core and teacher evaluations.  By contrast, the legislature forks over massive yearly increases to charters, no questions asked.  For the past few years, Connecticut’s ten neediest districts received increases of less than $300 per pupil per year on average, with strict strings attached mandating that they spend that money only the way Commissioner Pryor wanted it spent. By contrast, in Governor Malloy’s 2012 legislation,   every single charter school in Connecticut received a three-year across-the-board increase of $2600 per child.  Connecticut charters serve one 1% of the state’s public school children.  And ninety percent of Connecticut charters serve a less needy, and therefore, less costly, population than their host districts.

According to state data, Side by Side also performs well below the state average. Side by Side may very well be a nice school whose students and parents are happy. However, that is not the metric by which our public schools are judged, sadly.  If Side by Side and all the other “misunderstood” charters just want to be treated like the rest of us, serve the same children we do, and abide by the same rules.

“We need a school that’s going to promote God’s principles”  

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The observation comes from a member of the Varick Memorial A.M.E Church community as she explains why the State Board of Education should approve a “revised” charter for the Booker T. Washington Elementary School in New Haven.

The Board of Directors of the new Booker T. Washington School is led by Varick Memorial A.M.E. Church’s pastor, his assistant and his wife.  According to the proposal, his wife will serve on the board until she gets a job once the school is open.

The CT Newsjunkie story explains,

“The state Board of Education expressed skepticism Monday that a new charter school would be able to get up and running before the start of the school year, but nevertheless they unanimously approved the revised plan.”

Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education originally approved the Booker T. Washington Charter School based on the fact that it would be run by Jumoke/FUSE, but after the collapse of that company, the proponents of the Booker T. Washington School were allowed to find a new “management” operation.

The CT Newsjunkie story goes on to explain;

The school’s founder, Pastor Eldren Morrison, said they currently have eight board members, but intend to add an additional four members. At least one of the members will be a parent of a child attending the school, which will eventually serve pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade.

Theresa Hopkins-Staten, vice chairwoman of the board, cautioned the Booker T. Washington Academy and urged school officials to include a nepotism clause in its bylaws.

“You indicate that staff members, employees or relatives of staff members, as long as they’re qualified, can work there,” Hopkins-Staten pointed out. “I caution you against that. This board has seen situations where that has not worked out well.”

She said that while there might not be an actual conflict of interest, “perception becomes reality and you don’t want those types of issues early on as you get this school off the ground.”

Taylor told the board that they have not hired any relatives of board members.

[…]

Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now CEO Jennifer Alexander said she supports the revised proposal.

“New Haven’s kids should not be denied the opportunity to attend this school because FUSE apparently proved to be a less-than-honest partner,” Alexander said. “The hundreds of children and parents who have already applied to attend Booker T. Washington Academy (BTWA) should not be negatively impacted by the egregious and possibly illegal activities at FUSE.”

As part of its revised proposal, BTWA will lease space for $100,000 from Achievement First, a public charter school organization. Taylor said Mayo, who recently stepped forward to mentor Taylor , was instrumental in lowering the asking price for the sublease.

He said they are paying less on the lease than what Achievement First is paying the landlord for the space.

“It’s a fraction of what they’re paying,” Taylor said.

As Wait, What? readers know, Achievement First Inc. was co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, and the office responsible for reviewing charter school operations is run by Morgan Barth, a former Achievement First, Inc. employee who taught and served as an administrator illegally during 6 of his years at Achievement First, Inc.

The State Board of Education did not address or produce any documentation about the potential conflict of interest now that Booker T Washington is now renting and renovating property owned by Achievement First, Inc.

You can read the full CT Newsjunkie article at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/board_of_education_approves_new_charter_school/?utm_source=CTNewsJunkie.com&utm_campaign=b40dcb2093-MCP_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a493d2308d-b40dcb2093-92878945

 

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Self-proclaimed as “America’s Most Trusted Educator,” Steve Perry says he is opening a charter school in NYC?

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According to his PR operation, “Dr. Steve Perry, and the founders of what US News & World Reports has called one of America’s top high schools, are coming to Harlem.”

Despite the fact that Perry and his “team” are full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education, Steve Perry’s media statement explains that, “The Capital Prep Harlem team seeks to work with those children currently languishing on waiting lists or in schools not meeting their needs.” Perry’s statement adds, “Capital Prep Harlem’s board brings together leaders from industry, education and media to offer a robust set of resources to serve some of Harlem’s neediest children.”

According to Perry’s charter school application, the Capital Prep Harlem Board includes ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith.

As the New York Daily News reported earlier this week,

Frankly speaking, Stephen A. Smith wants in on the charter-school gold rush.

The outspoken ESPN talking head and former Daily News sportswriter is listed as a member of the board of trustees of the proposed Capital Prep Harlem Charter School, according to documents recently posted online.

“Mr. Smith’s key contributions include his expertise in communications and media,” the school’s application to the state reads.

While Perry’s PR operation makes it seem as if the Capital Prep Harlem Charter School is a “done deal,” the fact is the application is one of fourteen that made it through an initial cut and will require approval by the New York Board of Regents, which is scheduled to vote on the applications in November.

According to the education news site Chalk Beat,

 “Thirty-four schools across the state submitted letters of intent, and 17 were chosen to continue to this next round of the application process…In their letters of intent, schools outlined their missions, enrollment plans, and initial board members.

By way of introduction, Perry’s letter of intent states,

Dr. Stephen D. Perry (3 years) is the founder and principal of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, CT (Capital Prep”). Under Dr. Perry’s leadership, Capital Prep has become a model of public education’s potential to provide educational opportunities to historically underserved populations. In addition to being principal of Capital Prep, Dr. Perry is an Education Contributor for CNN and MSNBC, a best-selling author, and host of the #1 docudrama for TVONE “Save My Son.” Dr. Perry earned a Doctorate of Educational Leadership from University of Hartford, an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work and a B.A. from University of Rhode Island. Dr. Perry will serve as a member of the Founding Board of Trustees. Dr. Perry’s key contributions include his extensive expertise in education.

Although observers might question the honesty of some of the statements contained in Perry’s charter school application, the new Capital Prep New York City charter school plan reads,

 CP Harlem’s program and curriculum designs are based on the internationally recognized, research-based model developed by the founders of Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. (CPS) and implemented over the past ten years at Capital Prep in Hartford, CT. CPS will serve as the management services provider for CP Harlem, which will be part of the emerging boutique of CPS schools, to include CP Harlem and Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport CT, approved to open in July 2015.

And when it comes to “follow the money,” the Capital Prep New York city application adds,

CPS will provide management services to CP Harlem in the following areas: start-up, operations, talent development, oversight, fundraising, marketing and advocacy, human resources, facility, finance, procurement, and board relations. In addition, CPS will provide a small contingency of ancillary services including accounting, performance management, and program evaluation.

According to the documents, the New York charter school application was submitted by “Dr. Stephen D. Perry, Head of Schools, Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc.”

As long-time Wait, What? readers know Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. is a private company formed by Stephen Perry.  Official documents filed with the Connecticut Secretary of the State list the company as being located at Mr. Perry’s home, while the IRS documents record that the company is actually registered at Capital Preparatory Magnet School, a public school within the Hartford Connecticut School System.

Since the address on Perry’s New York City application is blacked out, it is not clear whether he is applying for the new school from his home address or from his job as a full-time employee of the Hartford Board of Education.

Perry’s application is also unclear as to who will actually be providing the management services outlined in his proposal.

Earlier this year, at the direction of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, the Connecticut State Board of Education approved a new charter school for Steve Perry in Bridgeport…despite the fact that there is no funding for the school in the state budget.

According to Perry’s Bridgeport application, the management team and lead teachers that will be running the new Capital Prep Bridgeport Harbor School are full-time administrators, teachers and staff of the Hartford Board of Education.  While the plan failed to explain how full-time public employees could also be working for a private charter school company, the Malloy administration approved Perry’s new school.

Interestingly, Perry’s New York City charter school application is completely silent as to whether the management services that are to be provided by Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. will also be conducted by those same full-time public employees.

You can find Perry’s Letter of Intent at:  http://www.p12.nysed.gov/psc/documents/2014Rd2capprepR.pdf

The Beginning of the end for the Charter School Industry in Connecticut

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy ushered in the Charter School Industry to Connecticut as part of his corporate education reform initiative in 2012.  As part of his “education reforms,”

  •  Malloy became the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so-called “turnaround schools.”
  • Malloy uttered his infamous observation that all teachers had to do was show up for four years and they’d get tenure.
  • In defense of his plans to implement the unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, Malloy said he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.
  • And Malloy handed Connecticut’s State Department of Education over to corporate education reform aficionados like Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Special Master Steven Adamowski, education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas and the charter school industry.

In the past two and a half years, Connecticut taxpayers have we seen tens of millions of dollars in public funds diverted to feed the monster known as the emerging education reform industry.

Scarce taxpayer resources wasted on the Common Core, the Common Core Test, the unfair teacher evaluation program and for charter schools that fail to meet the most basic standards of accountability.

But over the past few months, the tide has been turning and the  truth about Malloy, Malloy’s administration, the “education reformers” and the charter schools have been coming out.

The collapse of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain was just the beginning – the time has come when the education reformers will finally be held accountable for their actions.

As the Hartford Courant is reporting today in an article entitled, More Federal Subpoenas In Hartford Charter School Probe,

HARTFORD — City and state educators said Monday that they had been served with subpoenas by a federal grand jury examining the expenditure of millions of dollars in public money by the troubled charter school management company FUSE.

The subpoenas were issued Friday to the Hartford Public Schools and the state Department of Education, both of which have had extensive dealings with the state-subsidized FUSE, short for the Family Urban Schools of Excellence.

FUSE was created in 2012 as a management company that used public and private money to take over failing, inner-city public schools and operate them as public charter schools. FUSE’s management agreements with public school systems gave it wide discretion over spending on salaries, rents, curriculum, equipment and other items.

A series of embarrassing disclosures in the past month appears to have crippled FUSE, costing the organization all its management business, worth more than $1 million a year. The closely affiliated Jumoke Academy fired FUSE as manager of its three Hartford charter schools. Schools in Bridgeport and New Haven severed ties with FUSE, and educators in Louisiana, concerned about events in Connecticut, pulled FUSE from a charter school set to open in Baton Rouge next month.

The public is learning the truth and the charter school industry and their public official allies will finally be held accountable for their actions.

You can read the full Hartford Courant story on this developing situation at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-fuse-0722-20140721,0,3308874.story

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